Catching this locally shot love story/revenge freakout at 9am on a Sunday morning probably isn't the best way to appreciate this extreme exercise in hi-test emotions and broken lives, but what the heck: It's Fantastic Fest, and all bets are off. British director Rumley picked up the Fantastic Fest Jury Prize back in 2006 for The Living and the Dead
and forged a bond with FantFest co-founder and Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, who's on board as the executive producer of this grim, dire, and heartachey slice of life in the 512. The storyline is, for want of a better term, very Austin, with locales aplenty (the Broken Spoke and Lucky Lounge, to name a couple) and enough slow-simmering trouble in the making to render this an Austin gothic of the first order. It isn't pleasant, to be sure, but Rumley's film lingers in the mind and has much to say about life, death, and ball-peen hammers. Fuller plays Erica, a wayward, broken woman with psychosexual issues that thwart her every move toward redemption. Pulling a shift at a building-supply store, she's also drowning her sorrows in random sexual activity. At the co-op where she lives, things are tense until, unexpectedly, former Iraq War vet Nate (a cadaverous Taylor) shows up, and a tentative platonic friendship evolves between the misfit pair. It's bound not to last, of course, and when Franki (the excellent Senter), one of Erica's one-night stands, reappears, things go from bad to worse in a heartbeat. Yes, there will be blood. Rumley's ace in the hole is a fine cast that grabs hold of the swirling black juju that informs the film. No one here has a simple way out or an easy answer; there's too much baggage, and most of it is less than joyful. Erica is seeking redemption, as is the mysterious Nate. And when the final act explodes in a bloody, hyperviolent vendetta – Nate, Franki, and Erica all have their reasons – the end result is part horror show and part gripping love story. It's a rough film, but honest and packed with characters that try to save themselves yet are also painfully aware that redemption is almost certainly beyond them. Rumley has assembled a fine cast; there's not a false step in the film, and while obviously this isn't a film for everyone, these are characters that we come to know, respect, and fall hard for, doomed or not. You hope for the best for them but know, almost immediately, that there are black clouds and gray shrouds ahead.